One part absurdist comedy, another part emotional dramedy – with no idea how to balance both tones.
“You’re right, it’s a classic kidnapping. They took our children and the canned goods and pasta.”
This feels like it was written by a 15-year-old. Considering the subject matter, that’s not necessarily always a bad thing. There’s a youthful charm to this coming-of-age tale, complete with an adolescent sense of humour and an energetic, impatient approach to pacing/story structure. You can tell this film isn’t really concerned with how these characters set off on their adventure – it just wants to dive in. Head first.
And that part’s a huge problem. You can’t skim through the beginning of a story just because the middle section’s more interesting. As a result, there’s very little dimension to these characters (at least until the third act) – most of them feel like exaggerated cardboard cut-outs. Especially walking punchline Biaggio. You have no idea who this kid is, why’s he’s even friends with Joe & Patrick, or how he came to be involved in this plot in the first place. He’s just there to make you chuckle. And to actor Moisés Arias’ credit, make you chuckle he does.
I’ve come to expect this brand of half-hearted storytelling from studio comedies. Films willing to sacrifice logic and character depth for the sake of the yucks. What makes The Kings Of Summer so bizarre is that it shares far more of its thematic DNA with an offbeat indie dramedy – but that’s all frequently undermined by this weird tonal inconsistency. There’s a powerful emotional undercurrent to Joe’s strained relationship with his father, for instance – yet the film won’t really investigate that because prickly, sarcastic Nick Offerman is far more entertaining.
It’s frustrating, because when this hits, it hits all the right spots. It’s nostalgic escapism – conjuring fond memories of summer’s gone by spent pining over girls and goofing around with friends. It’s carefree, and it’s fun and it has absolutely no idea what it wants to be when it grows up. Kind of like a kid?
I know suspension of disbelief is an important part of enjoying movies, but I cannot fathom how three kids (one of whom can’t even reach the ceiling) were able to build a house like that. Nope. Can’t do it.